Question:

I'd like some advice, if you will, on time management. School has gotten be real stressful at times due to the high amounts of work I receive. I know that school is important and when I get on my computer for school work, the majority of times I get side-tracked to your web site probably for hours ha-ha. I know, of course, that I must be responsible for my schoolwork, but learning God's word is more important.

Not only school, but I also obtained a job. I'm not sure if having it is the best idea. I'm glad I don't work many hours a week. There's a lot of material being covered at school, and I think I'm going at it the wrong way to be able to accomplish all these tasks.

In regards to all of this, I know that God's Word is important and it should be our highest priority. How do I handle these responsibilities and not letting school work affect my spiritual growth? I know it's not considered a sin to focus on working because the Word says "whoever doesn't work shall not eat," but I don't want these things to overwhelm me to the point that I'm stressing over life.

Another thing I'd like to ask is in Romans 10:17 "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." When on your web site, I sometimes go to your sermons page or to the Q & A's. Compared to just reading the answers and the actual reading of the Bible, Romans 10:17 would apply strictly to the reading of the Bible, but can it result by reading other peoples problems or sermons with responses relative to the Bible?

I want to take the time as well to let you know once again that I truly appreciate you taking the time to write to me as if you were counseling a son or loved one. It means a lot to me because in many churches you don't see this type of interaction between brethren. May God bless you in all the work that you do. It may seem silly for me to say this, but I hope one day I can travel to your church and can meet you face to face in the future to show fellowship and that I truly appreciate your dedication to Christ. You're a role model to me. Thank you.


Answer:

"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace
" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

Obviously there are many things that need to be done in our short lives and they cannot be accomplished all at once. We have to make the most of the time we do have. "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16).

You could see working at counterproductive to being a Christian, but listen to what Paul said: "Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men" (Ephesians 6:5-7). The way you work sets an example for others in how Christians behave -- you are spreading God's message through your own life. Since it is Christ who commands men to work, then working is a form of obedience to the Lord. "That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing" (I Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Your education is preparing you so that you can work to support yourself and to have funds to help others. "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need" (Ephesians 4:28). (See On Being Educated for more.)

My point is that there is far more to being a Christian than book learning, though that is absolutely necessary. But learning without application is useless. "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:21-25). We are expected as Christians to do good. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:11-14). This includes living in this world as a good example to others.

When it comes to time management itself, you look at what needs to get accomplished. Things that are due soon get higher priority simply because you have less time to finish them. If you have two things due about the same time, the one that is more important comes first. Thus, in school work, you have two assignments due on Friday: one that is worth about 1% of your final grade and another that is worth 15% of your final grade, then the 15% one comes first. If push-comes-to-shove, you can absorb a 1% loss, but a 15% loss is a major impact.

You work on the project steady. You don't put it off to the last minute. Instead you do a portion each day. If I have a project due in two weeks, then I will divide it into sections and start the first section today. If I get done early, great! That is one less thing to worry about and I don't have to be concerned about a last minute assignment in another class preventing me from spending time on this assignment.

Allow yourself breaks, but only after you met a reasonable objective. The breaks are limited. So if I have 30 math problems to do and it takes about 5 minutes to solve each problem, I might decide I'll work on 6 problems and then take a ten minute break and then tackle the next 6 problems.

Schedule a period of time each day that is your homework time. You use the full time so long as there are assignments due, even if they are not due tomorrow. If you run out of homework to do, then wonderful! Treat yourself to doing something that you would rather do.

In that scheduling, you can then schedule a minimum among of time for Bible study. If you get all your other obligations done and you can devote more time, that is fine. What you don't do is use time that you are supposed to be doing homework, chores, or work for Bible study. Everything has its proper place and time. Only when you earned added time by getting the other work done early can you add time to doing something else that you enjoy.

Studying should be a mixture. You need to read your Bible for yourself, so you can focus on what is said and come up with your own questions that you would like answered. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15). Reading other material helps you to branch out and see things from another person's point of view. You might not have thought of using a particular passage for a particular problem before. You might not have notice a point in a passage because you didn't see the significance of it. But whenever you use someone's material, you check it carefully because people make mistakes. You don't want to pick up other people's mistakes. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).

I hope we do have a chance to meet one day. It has always been exciting to get acquainted with people whom I've corresponded with and actually spend time with them. This year I was able to meet three people whom I've talked with for years. These meetings were among the highlights of my year.